Isn’t the old expression Hearts and Flowers? Of course it is. And that is where I begin.
Fences have their use, whether it is containing something or keeping things out.
Within Judaism fences are what is put around Torah. The reason being that fences – or barriers – make sure that we mere mortals do not transgress the law. Moses descended the mountain with the tablets containing the TEN WORDS for the Israelites. There are eight “shalt nots” and two “shalts.” Humanly speaking, telling us what not to do seems to provoke us to do it.
So what was set in stone – literally and figuratively – were to be guideposts for how to live our lives in sync with our Creator. Through the millennia learned rabbis have commented, expounded on these basic directives from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Their goal is to help mankind navigate life within the limits of what is expected of us.
The first commandment is to have no other gods before Him, from which we derive the Shema, “Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind [and strength].” (Deut. 6:5) Upon this – combined with what is called the second great commandment “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” – hang all the Law and the Prophets.
And the fences abound. Layer upon layer to the extent that sometimes we are hard pressed to remember the intent of the original word. What God intended for a stepping stone has become a stumbling block. What can get lost in translation – or interpretation – is love.
It was Jesus who came to illuminate the Torah, the Law. He spoke simply but pierced our hearts. No longer were the Ten Commandments slashed graffiti on cold walls of abandoned buildings, provoking us to defy them. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus (Yeshua) breathed life back into the purpose of the law and our ability to obey.
The Law had been lovingly transmitted to us by our Creator who sees past, present and future – all at the same time. God knew what could stumble us and sent us prophets to light our paths. He knew we must have free will, but heavenly guidance to stay the course. Instead of being filled with His Presence and empowered to follow his laws, we sit around and ponder them to the extent of arguments. Where’s the love?
The goal of all the law is that we love God and each other. That we treat our fellow man as we would like to be treated. How many have asked, “But who is my neighbor?” We understand that our neighbor can be literal but also figurative.
What I fear we sometimes forget is that our neighbor is also our own children. Those who are blessed to be entrusted to raise children have a deeper commitment to those in our charge than to any other persons.
When we see our children start to go astray, our first urge as parents is to lock them up! Honestly! What we are missing is that they too were created with Free Will. Don’t mistake me, I have raised children and know the many pitfalls we must guide them passed. What I am saying is that our first response – not reaction – needs to be love.
Malachi testified that the Father would send “Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers.” Wonder why we had to be reminded of that specifically?! (Malachi 4:5-6)
These are those times when fathers and their children are at odds with one another more than ever before. We as the parents can by God’s grace turn that around. Our children will be led astray. We must be watchmen on the wall, but not their executioners. The enemy of their souls is very eager to see them fail and also to turn away from their parents. Our greatest challenge is to regain the hearts of our children.
We can’t just lock them up. How many fences would be enough? If we did shut them away, there would never be the right time to let them loose. God didn’t lock us up. He listens, he hears us, he is slow to anger and he admonishes us to not provoke our children to anger. (Eph. 6:4) Anger separates, love bonds. We must teach them the same challenge we have and that is to be in the world but not of it.
Not to oversimplify – because this is a very complex situation – but the answer is not more control, but less. In this situation, less is truly more. As our children grow, we need to watch over them, counsel them, instruct them and even discipline them, but all without breaking their spirits and without replacing the voice of the Holy Spirit in them. It is God’s voice we want them to heed. We have to nurture their ability to hear from God, not just remove any possibility of temptation.
The older our kids become, the greater the challenge to hold onto their hearts. We must show them unconditional love as they attempt – and often fail – to navigate God’s path for them. Proverbs 15 says “A soft [gentle] answer turns away wrath, but grievous [hard] words stir up anger.” And again in 16:24 “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Hey, send them flowers when they mess up if you want to blow their minds!
We must be transparent even as we ask it of them. There is no place for fences in our relationship with our loved ones. We need to have confidence in what we have instilled in them throughout their lives. We need to hear them instead of just waiting for our turn to talk. They need to know that we value their perspective, because it is unique to each individual. They need to know we see hope in their ability to hear God.
We must show them how our heart breaks when they fall off the path. As we humble ourselves, God will give us grace for the situation. (Prov. 11:12) Then we have their attention and they will more readily hear us as we steer them back.
Isn’t that what our Heavenly Father does for us? How can we do less.